Warning: minor spoilers ahead! Read with caution.
Weird and wonderful short tale of a university professor who is looking for a missing student. I hadn’t read any of Lovecraft’s stories but I still enjoyed this very much.
First of all, I learned what a group of cats is called: “A clowder had congregated with the quad, as well; they ceased whatever was their business and watched as Vellitt and Oure passed, and one, a small black cat, separated itself from the rest and followed them into Jurat’s stairwell.” pg 15. A clowder, how cool is that. I nearly have a clowder of cats at my house. Also, this story has a bit about talking to cats: “In her far-travelling days, Vellitt had known a dreamer who claimed to understand the speech of cats, but of all the cats she had ever met in Ulthar- a town crammed with them- none had ever spoken to her, nor anyone else; none that she knew, anyway.” pg 43, ebook.
Besides all of the cat things, there is an awesome twist to this story:“When Vellitt Bow was young, she had been a far-traveller, a great walker of the Six Kingdoms, which waking-world men called the dream lands.”pg 29 If I had read a Lovecraft novel, I wouldn’t have been so surprised about this aspect of the world. So, happy accident for me. 🙂
There’s also a silly bit about librarians that I have to include because, well, you know: “She reopened the book and began to read, but an aged man in violet robes so old they had faded to lavender entered the room and castigated her for touching the books. Despite the differences in language, age, and sex, his tone was a mirror of that of Uneshyl Pos, the librarian at the Women’s College; for all librarians are the same librarian.” pg 55. Pretty much.
The criticism of the original work, that I only caught because it hit me like a ton of bricks, was the sexism built into it. Like I said, I wouldn’t known, having not read it, but read this passage: “Women don’t dream large dreams,” he had said, dismissively. “It is all babies and housework. Tiny dreams.” pg 71. Well, we all know that’s not right. Thank you, Kij Johnson, for writing a version of the world that I really enjoyed.
Recommended for readers who enjoy adventure, horror, and fantasy fiction. You also may appreciate it more if you read the original text, but as you can see from my review, that’s not required.
Thanks for reading.